Foundations focus on building community

By Todd Cohen

[Note: This was written for Blackbaud.]

Public and private foundations increasingly are working to serve as “connecting” institutions for communities defined by geography or a cause, partnering with donors to identify their communities’ needs, and developing and funding efforts to address them, said Siobhan O’Riordan, senior vice president of engagement at the Council on Foundations.

Community foundations, for example, are “partnering with community leaders to listen and identify what key needs are and then partner with donors to meet needs,” O’Riordan said.

Shifting strategies

As a result of partnerships with foundations, donors are diversifying the strategies they use to make gifts, she said.

“Perception is moving away from donor-directed funds,” she said. “Instead of donors using community foundations as a service to allocate funds, donors are understanding that the community foundation has a vital role in meeting core needs so that they can begin giving to funds that meet their interests.”

Funds of interest typically have a specific area of focus, and community foundations aggregate those funds “and steward them and deliver impact on interest areas through grantees who are doing the work in the community,” O’Riordan said.

Food in Northern Virginia

Lara Kalwinski, director of national standards and counsel at the Council on Foundations, said the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia in Arlington “sees part of its role as not just talking to donors but also to the community and nonprofits that serve community needs.”

This year, Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C., which serves northern Virginia, asked the Community Foundation for support in addressing hunger in Manassas, where few philanthropic dollars are available.

The Community Foundation, in turn, talked to its donors, including one who has a donor advised fund at the Foundation. It then agreed to fund a program at the food bank for one year “because of the connections that the community foundation has, not just the connections to money but to the community, responding to its needs, and knowing how to pool resources to address those needs,” Kalwinksi said.

“When a community foundation is articulate on the needs of a community because they’ve listened to the community, they have the ability of connecting — where a donor might be interested — to what is actually happening,” she said. “Public foundations understand how to engage in that role. Any time they can have a better conversation with that donor, the likelihood of making a connection that leads to trust — and ultimately a gift — is greater.”

New tools

O’Riordan said that as community foundations increasingly play the role of connecting institutions, they are “diversifying the tools they fundraise with and the tools they partner with and they grant with.”

Foundations are moving beyond their traditional focus on philanthropy, donor advised funds, and money, she said. “There’s a more systemic understanding than the informal aspects of philanthropic success in the past: how do you build trust, sustain credibility, and embrace community leadership.”

So community foundations are working with donors to create “directed funds” and “field of interest funds” to address specific causes and issues they care about, she said. “They’re providing donors with greater opportunities to engage through community conversations. They are diversifying their strategies and their tools but they’re doing it because they really are anchoring themselves in what it means to be a community.”

Community foundations also are using “impact investing” that aims to address social and environmental problems by making alternative investments such as loans to nonprofits or allocations to socially responsible investments.

Expertise and technology

Faced with the sophisticated technology available to donors from large commercial gift funds such as Fidelity Charitable, community foundations increasingly will need to emphasize their community connections and invest in “user-friendly” technology to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, O’Riordan said.

“There are opportunities to better use technology to leverage the community knowledge and connections that community foundations bring,” she said.

Community foundations also can use technology to make it easier for donors to give, particularly to relief efforts in the wake of natural disasters or in the face of crises that require a quick response.

Diversification and data

With growing competition for donors, shrinking government funding, and rising community needs, community foundations also face the ongoing challenges of creating development plans that call for a diversified revenue mix and developing tools to evaluate and track their impact and those of their partnerships.

In addition to using the traditional strategy of donor advised funds, for example, community foundations increasingly are working with donors to create interest-area funds, endowments, and funds held by private foundations and corporate partners, O’Riordan said..

Community foundations also are creating “giving days” that invite donors to give online or through email on specific dates or to support specific causes.

And foundations are looking for ways to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs they fund and to measure the difference those programs make in the community.

Data and the stories they tell are critical for all foundations that want to move the needle on community issues, including foundations that pool resources so they can have a “collective impact” on important community issues, O’Rioridan said. And technology can help gather and make sense of that data.

“If they position themselves as a backbone organization that is able to accept funds from different community stakeholders, and deliver on that, and do the evaluation and be able to assess and speak to the impact, they play a vital role in the community,” she said.

Nonprofit news roundup, 08.14.15

Communities in Schools training student-support specialists

Communities in Schools of North Carolina has been awarded a $360,000 grant from GSK to train student-support specialists in schools throughout the state to use research-based tools to increase attendance, improve behavior, enhance coursework and engage more parents and families. 

More than 300 school-based student-support specialists from some of the lowest-performing schools in the state attended a training session on the new intervention tools in Cary on August 10 and 11.

Operation North State expands services to troops, veterans

Operation North State, a Winston-Salem nonprofit that serves North Carolina’s deployed troops and veterans, is expanding its services and preparing to launch a national program to serve wounded military women.

In its fifth year of services, ending June 30, the nonprofit provided support services totaling $450,000 to $475,000 and hosted six “Fishin’ Festivals” for disabled veterans and individuals wounded in the military, up from two the previous year.

It plans soon to launch “Operation Lady Jane,” which will provide support services for wounded military women. It expects eventually to spin the program off as a separate nonprofit.

On September 1, Operation North State will kick off its NCCARES Christmas Box Project, which in December aims to send 1,500 care packages to North Carolina’s deployed troops.

And it will hold its fishing festivals at Jordan Lake on October 9, and at Ocean Crest Pier on Oak Island on October 9.

‘Gay Bingo’ returns to Charlotte

Gay Bingo, an event to raise funds and awareness for RAIN, a nonprofit that provides supportive services to HIV-positive youth, adults and senior adults in the Charlotte area, will return to Charlotte on November 14 after a five-year hiatus.

The event, which started nearly 15 years ago and has raised nearly $1 million for RAIN, will be held Grady Cole Center at 310 N. Kings Drive.

RAIN  provides bilingual community education and support services; specialized support for HIV-positive youth; chronic disease self-management training; chaplain services; customized programs for faith communities and case management linking clients with housing, medications, treatment and other resources.

High Point Salvation Army hosting ‘Back-to-School Bash’

The Salvation Army of High Point will host its annual Back-to-School Bash on August 15 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club at 121 SW Cloverleaf Place in High Point.

In addition to free food, inflatables, face painting, and yard games, 12 local vendors will be set up to offer special resources, provide detailed information, and help families sign up for local programs.  

Participating vendors include United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club, Piedmont Health Services, High Point University, Girl Scouts, Step-Up Program, Second Harvest Food Bank, YWCA, Guilford Parent Academy, Guilford Technical Community College, and the High Point Police and Fire Department.

Salvation Army teams with Thomas Built Buses

Thomas Built Buses provided school supplies to The Salvation Army of High Point for 180 children.

Grant to support certification for child-care health consultants

The North Carolina Institute for Child Development Professionals has received a $25,000 grant from North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation to design and launch the first certification-endorsement process in the U.S. for child-care health consultants.

North Carolina has one of the largest populations in the U.S. of child-care health consultants. In fiscal 2013,14, those consultants served over 2,000 programs serving over 65,000 children.

Partners of the Institute in the project are the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill; North Carolina Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center; North CarolinaChild Care Health Consultant Association; North Carolina Partnership for Children; and Child Care Services Association.

Winston-Salem State freshmen package meals for hungry

More than 150 freshmen at Winston-Salem State University are set today to package 10,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now, a Raleigh-based international relief agency that will distribute the meals mainly to support education programs and save lives in developing countries throughout the world. 

IMPRINTS gets $38,500

IMPRINTS, a Winston-Salem-based nonprofit that works to prepare children and their families for success in school and in life, has received a $38,500 grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

Perkins joins Girl Scouts’ Coastal Pines board

Natalie Perkins, CEO of Clean Design, a branding and advertising agency in Raleigh, has joined the board of directors of the North Carolina Coastal Pines Council of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Corporate Volunteer Council to hold open house

The Corporate Volunteer Council of the Volunteer Center of Greensboro will hold an open house on August 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Center’s office at 1500 Yanceyville St.

Davidson County Hospice to host summer social

Hospice of Davidson County will host a summer social on August 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Richard Childress Racing at 236 Industrial Drive in Welcome.

5K to benefit Make-A-Wish

Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina will receive all proceeds from the second annual Gigi’s Cupcakes 5K, to be held October 17 at Brier Creek in Raleigh.

The event, to begin at 8 a.m., will be hosted by Gigi’s Cupcakes Brier Creek and sponsored by Upstream Benefits.

Meals on Wheels gets $3,000

Meals on Wheels of Wake County has received a $3,000 donation from the Food Lion Feeds Charitable Foundation.

Meals on Wheels will use the funds to feed homebound and disabled seniors in Wake County and provide 750 meals to area clients.

Parekh Family Foundation to hold gala

The Parekh Family Foundation will host a fundraising gala on September 11 from 6:30 p.m. to midnight at One Eleven Place, 111 Realtors Way, in Cary.

UNC-Pembroke fraternity joins alcohol-awareness effort

Eta Upsilon Colony, a fraternity at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, has adopted a program that is a partnership between Elevante, the International Leadership Conference of fraternal organization Alpha Sigma Phi, and Aware Awake Alive, a national nonprofit that works to equip youth and their communities with tools and confidence to prevent lives lost from alcohol poisoning.

The partnership provides fraternity members with information to educate one another on the signs and dangers of alcohol poisoning, as well as tools to address incidents of alcohol poisoning.

Hunger focus of new nonprofit

The Tybro Foundation, a new nonprofit in High Point that focuses on ending world hunger, is raising money and distributing it to food banks, needy families, and food giveaways.

Its mission is to provide food, scholarships and educational training to low-income and disadvantaged individuals and families in the community. Its trainings focus on instructing individuals and families on “how meditation can improve physical, emotional and mental health.”

The Foundation was created by Mitchell Gibson, a psychiatrist, and his wife, Kathy Haynes Gibson, who has worked in business and marketing.

Turn problems into opportunities

When bad things happen at your nonprofit, look for ways to put them to productive use.

Identify what went wrong, and how it happened. Correct the problem. And make the changes needed to make sure it does not happen again.

Then summarize the experience in writing, and use it as a learning tool — as appropriate — to help your board, staff, donors and other partners and supporters, respectively, understand that you are accountable for what you do, responsible in handling problems, able to learn from mistakes, and willing to share your organization’s flaws with the people who care about your cause.

If the problem is complicated, consider writing a short case study that examines in more detail what happened, what you did about it, what difference your changes made, and what you learned.

For the support they count on from donors, volunteers, partners and other supporters, charities must establish trust, and that requires they show integrity, accountability, openness, flexibility and continual learning.

So when your organization messes up, figure out what went wrong, fix it, make sure you don’t repeat it, and then document what happened and how you handled it, and use the lessons you learned to show the people you depend on that you mean business and deserve their support.

Want professional help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

‘Tiny homes’ to house people with mental illness

By Todd Cohen

PITTSBORO, N.C. — Among the nearly 359,000 adults in North Carolina who live with serious mental illness, or nearly one in 20 adult North Carolinians, fewer than half receive treatment and only one in three receives services from the state’s public mental health system. North Carolinians diagnosed with mental illness also account for roughly one in four of the nearly 9,000 adults in the state who are homeless.

Providing a place to live, along with support services, for people with mental illness is the goal of a partnership that aims to begin building a small community of 200-square-foot “tiny homes” on a farm in Chatham County.

The homes represent “a potential solution to the life of chronic homelessness and isolation experienced by a majority of our clients,” says Rebecca Sorensen, a volunteer and former intern at The Farm at Penny Lane, a program of the Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health at the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Yet simply placing a person with mental illness in a home “solves only half the problem,” says Sorensen, who this spring received a master’s degree in social work from UNC. “You’re dealing with the homelessness but not the mental-health issue.”

The Tiny Home collaborative is the brainchild of Sorensen and Thava Mahadevan, who is director of operations at the Center, which is housed in the Department of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine, and who served as Sorensen’s clinical adviser during her graduate studies.

As one of five semifinalists competing last spring for a $25,000 grant from Triangle Community Foundation to support partnerships to address community problems, the Tiny Home collaborative received $7,000.

Mahadevan, who also is founder and volunteer executive director of XDS Inc., a nonprofit that owns The Farm at Penny Lane and leases it to the Center, says it used some of the grant to study local zoning rules, and the remainder as matching funds to help raise the roughly $30,000 needed to build the demonstration tiny home.

In partnership with Chatham County Habitat for Humanity, Tiny Homes plans at the Chatham County Fair in September to build a demonstration home for the Farm at Penny Lane.

The home will serve as a model dwelling for mentally-ill individuals who would stay for a week or two. Based on their feedback, the partnership would work with Habitat for Humanity of Chatham County to build an initial cluster of three tiny homes at The Farm for local residents with mental illness.

The 40-acre Farm includes an acre used to grow vegetables and produce honey and eggs that are donated to patients with mental illness at the Center’s outpatient clinic at Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro, and sold at the Fearrington Farmers Market and the Farmers Market at UNC Hospitals.

The Farm also houses offices for a multi-disciplinary “ACTT” team —  including a psychiatrist, nurses, substance-abuse counselor, case managers and others — that serves 110 people, mainly in Chatham and Orange counties, with serious disabilities and mental illness.

And it provides Center patients with horticulture therapy in partnership with the North Carolina Botanical Garden and, in partnership with paws4people foundation in Wilmington, with therapy that involves training dogs for adoption that are rescued from the Chatham County Animal Shelter, and socializing puppies trained to be service dogs for military veterans. It also plans to add therapeutic programs involving music, art and yoga.

The connections that link the Farm, XDS and the Center are rooted in the 2001 state law that required local mental health centers to spin off their services to for-profit or nonprofit providers.

Mahadevan formerly was director of Cross Disability Services, a program of the Orange-Person-Chatham Mental Health Center. In 2004, in response to the 2001 law, he formed XDS, which took over the program and later bought the Farm. In 2011, XDS transferred its clinical services to the UNC Center.

Sorensen says the tiny homes will mean “increased self-sufficiency and improved quality of life for people diagnosed with mental illness.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 08.07.15

Women philanthropists to meet in Charlotte

Giving by women will be the focus of a national gathering of women philanthropists in Charlotte October 15-17 for the 2015 National Leadership Forum of the Women’s Collective Giving Grantmakers Network.

Keynote speaker at the event, which will be held at the Ballantyne Resort Hotel, will be Darla Moore, former vice president of Rainwater, Inc., a private investment company.

Moore is founder and chair of the Palmetto Institute, a nonprofit think-tank that works to boost per-capita income in South Carolina, and of The Charleston Parks Conservancy, a foundation that works to improve parks and public spaces in the City of Charleston.
She has invested or donated roughly $130 million in projects that benefit South Carolina.

Other speakers will include Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and Molly Barker, the local founder of Girls on the Run.

The Women’s Collective Giving Network represents 44 collective-giving grantmaking groups with a total of nearly 10,000 women members in 23 states.

Those groups have contributed a total of nearly $70 million in grants to nonprofits throughout the U.S.

Co-chairs of the event are Dianne Bailey Bailey, a lawyer at Charlotte firm Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, and Sonja Nichols.

Since 2003, the Fund has made 54 grants totaling nearly $4.2 million. It is one of the largest women’s collective-giving groups in the U.S.

Merrill Lynch is the event’s major corporate sponsor.

Giving to foundations grows

Overall giving to 96 foundations representing over $414.6 million in annual revenue grew 4.7 percent in the 3 months ending in June 2015, compared to the same period in 2014, according to the new Foundation Index from Blackbaud.

Giving to those foundations grew 7.6 percent in the 6 months ending in June 2015, compared to the same period a year earlier. In comparison, overall charitable giving to 5,170 nonprofits representing over $17 billion in annual giving grew 1.4 percent in the 6 months ending in June 2015, compared to the same period in 2014.

Giving to those 96 foundations in 2014 grew 6 percent from 2013. In comparison, overall charitable giving to nonprofits in 2014 grew 2.1 percent from 2013.

Nonprofit accounting errors studied

A new study says nonprofits make accounting errors at a relatively high rate, partly because they try to keep from spending too big a share of their funding on overhead, reports.

The study, by Jeffrey Burks, associate professor of accountancy at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, says the rate of accounting errors at nonprofits is nearly double that of for-profit businesses of similar sizes.

The study appears in the journal Accounting Horizons, published by the American Accounting Association.

NCCJ to honor Arbuckle and Brown

The National Conference for Community and Justice of the Piedmont Triad will honor Margaret B. Arbuckle of Greensboro and Robert J. “Bob” Brown of High Point with the 2015 Brotherhood/Sisterhood Citation Award at its 49th annual Citation Award Dinner on November 12.

Arbuckle is the retired executive director of the Guilford Education Alliance.

Brown is CEO and founder of B&C International, the oldest public relations firm in the U.S. owned and operated by an African American.

Chaired by Mark and Ursula Dudley Oglesby and expected to attract over 1,000 guests, the event will be held at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center.

Project One provides scholarships

Project One Scholarship Fund in Charlotte is providing financial support for 13 students from low-income, single-parent families attend college this fall, including four incoming freshmen. 

Two Project One scholars are on track to graduate in 2016, having had Project One support during all four years of college.

The organization also provides tools for college success, including a gifts-and-talents program, financial literacy and mentoring.

Through scholarships and federal student aid, Project One scholars will graduate from college debt-free. 

Project One was awarded a $10,000 unrestricted grant from The Leon Levine Foundation.

Warner elected Raleigh Rotary president

Kirk Warner, a partner in law firm Smith Anderson, has been elected the 102nd president of Rotary Club of Raleigh.

Autism Society to hold run/walk events

The Autism Society of North Carolina will hold its Western North Carolina Run/Walk for Autism UNC-Asheville  on September 12; its Greensboro Run/Walk for Autism at UNC-Greensboro on September 26; and its Triangle Run/Walk for Autism in downtown Raleigh on October 10.

Triangle Dairy Queen raises $20,000 for Duke Children’s Hospital

Triangle Dairy Queen’s three locations raised $19,615 for Duke Children’s Hospital through the sale of blizzards and balloons.

The money raised will be used for research, care and support programs to help families and children at Duke Children’s Hospital.

New Winston Museum to hold event celebrating exhibit

The New Winston Museum will hold a VIP event celebrating the opening of a new exhibit, “Planes trains and Automobiles: Winston-Salem’s Wheels of Change.”

The event, “Come Fly With Us,” will be held at Smith Reynolds Airport on September 10 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Honorary co-chairs are Sandy and Allan Gitter.

All proceeds will support the Museum’s mission of preserving, promoting and presenting the history and stories of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County through education and collaboration.

Guests at the event may attend the VIP opening of the new exhibit on September 17 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Dawkins elected VP of health underwriters board

Johnny Dawkins of Fayetteville, a strategic benefits consultant for EbenConcepts, has been elected vice president of the board of trustees of the National Association of Health Underwriters.

Central Park NC gets $60,000

Central Park NC, a nonprofit in Star that works to stimulate a local economy based on the sustainable use of the region’s natural and cultural resources, has received a $60,000 grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation for general operational support.

United Arts Council launches new website

United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County has launched a redesigned website it developed with Signal Hill Design.

Tie the news to your cause

Pay attention to the news and you will find lots of opportunities to raise awareness about the community need your nonprofit addresses.

If you work to end homelessness, for example, and your local newspaper reports on state funding for services for people with mental illness, link to that story on your website and through social media, and add a comment about the fact that many people who are homeless live with mental illness.

If you serve victims of domestic violence, and a national business story reports on corporate productivity, link to that story, and cite research that shows domestic violence hurts workplace productivity.

Or if your cause is conserving natural spaces and water, link to a story on local population growth or a new company moving to the region, and explain that smart planning protects water supplies that new residents and businesses depend on.

Use the news to help people understand your cause. The more they know, the more likely they are to get involved and support your work.

Want professional help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or